Catherine Morel has worked in several fine-dining restaurants in Columbus, Ohio, Las Vegas, and Glendale, CA and is currently the Lead Sommelier for 71Above at the US Bank Building in downtown LA. She has worked her way through the Court of Master Sommeliers, currently holds the Advanced Diploma, and has the Master Diploma in her sights. She believes that a good wine program should speak to all levels of guest experience while offering unusual selections for those wishing to wander off of the beaten path.
At 71Above, Catherine was the Lead Sommelier at Michael Mina’s Bourbon Steak LA at the Americana at Brand following her previous position as Lead Sommelier at Michael Mina’s American Fish at the Aria Resort & Casino in Las Vegas. Those restaurants allowed Catherine to expand on her expertise in both wine & beverage programs gained working as the Beverage Director at DeepWood restaurant in Columbus, Ohio. That is where Catherine was able to take her 12+ years of experience as a server, bartender, and sommelier and apply it to a beverage program that was focused on craft cocktails and an eclectic wine selection. Prior to joining the DeepWood family, Catherine worked at Master Chef Richard Rosendale’s restaurant Rosendale’s as well as the local favorite Basi Italia.
When not at the restaurant, Catherine is focused on her studies for the Master Sommelier exam but takes time to enjoy the beautiful California weather—finding time to explore the many trails in the nearby mountains, as well as exploring the vibrant LA food & beverage scene.
1. How did you get into the wine business?
I’ve ben in the restaurant business for over 21 years. I have a degree in Latin but never stopped working in restaurants since my first job as a busser. Gradually, I fell down the rabbit hole of the wine side of things and have never looked back.
2. What are the most frustrating and rewarding parts of your job?
The frustrating moments are the usual ones that anyone in the restaurant business would have—the rewarding parts are the moments when you really make someone’s night, dinner, or event a memorable one.
3. What is your most memorable wine experience?
There have been so many amazing people, trips, and events over the years…but the trip I took to Northern Italy a few years ago really stands out. There were so many great moments with both the people and wines throughout the entire trip.
4. What is an upcoming trend you see in wine?
Not so much as an upcoming trend, but the continuation of the push for transparency, equality, and respect at all levels in the business from the vineyard to the restaurant.
5. What is the best piece of advice someone has given to you?
Be nice to your wine reps. You never know when you might need a really big favor or end up working on that side of the business (it’s also my favorite piece of advice to pass onto others!).
6. What is one tip you have for someone just getting into wine?
Try everything—don’t worry about prestige, scores, ratings, and so on when first starting out, but make sure that while you are doing this, you are paying attention and looking up information about the who, what, where (producer, grape, appellation), and start building a knowledge base.
Lead Sommelier at 71Above
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